OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Mayor Jean Stothert has said before, and says again, that the job as mayor energizes her and that getting back into the office has been therapeutic for her after her husband Joe tragically passed away last month.
"After something like that happens and all your friends and family leave and you're alone again in your house, I really needed my work family and my campaign family," said Stothert.
She believes the defining issue of the campaign is recovering from the pandemic.
"That is what is on people's mind right now,” said Stothert.
Stothert said her leadership navigating a $75 million budget shortfall in 2020 and the necessary cuts she made, proved that she can help the city restart once the pandemic is behind us.
“We are financially sound, is the city going to be able to move forward, did we have to layoff anybody? No, we didn't. I feel like we have navigated this pandemic and fared better than most cities across the country. We ended up with a surplus,” said Stothert.
Pre-COVID, Stothert prioritized streets; pushing forward a street bond that puts an extra $40 million towards streets, annually, over the next five years.
She points to 59 new street projects this year alone.
"They are all over Omaha and people can see that work being done,” said Stothert.
Multiple opponents say Stothert has not prioritized North Omaha and, instead focused on streets out west.
Stothert said both Northeast and Southeast Omaha have older infrastructure that needs more attention. She said plenty of projects, including a focus on Ames Street, are on the radar.
"It disappoints me that there are mayoral candidates that are not aware of how many road projects that we have scheduled for Northeast Omaha and how many have already occurred,” said Stothert.
Thursday, Stothert received law enforcement support from the Fraternal Order of Police, former Douglas Sheriff Tim Dunning and County Attorney Don Kleine, who endorsed the mayor.
She says polling and anecdotal conversations show that people want public safety, and despite criticism, she believes Omahans have trust in their police department.
"What we hear and we've seen is there is strong support, in Omaha, in northeast Omaha, for our police department, for our law enforcement,” said Stothert.
She draws a contrast with her opponents as the only candidate with any experience in city hall.
She says even before she was elected mayor, her experience on city council allowed her to take to the job right away.
"I felt like I hit the ground running when I became mayor, and a learning curve for somebody that has no experience in city hall would be huge and great," said Stothert.